Will the Real Ox in the Mire Please Stand Up

I found this while browsing old ensigns this morning.  I have to share because it is awesome.  It is an article about reason for Sunday activities (such as shopping) amongst the church membership.

It is a narrow focused study but I suspect that much of it may be more true today than it was then.

After reprinting Luke 14:1-6 the authors, Franklyn W. Dunford and Phillip R. Kunz, make a point that this ox in the mire excuse is used often by the church membership.  From this premise the authors look at two wards to show some intriguing statistics.
This quote btw was gold.

“Of this group of active Church members, 78 percent reported that they shop on Sundays. This is surprising when we consider that 99.6 percent of this group reported that they understand the Church’s position to be, in principle, against Sunday shopping; when 89 percent reported both that they personally feel that the principle against Sunday shopping is important and that in principle Sunday shopping is wrong.”

So the first part discussed was the frequency of the Sunday shopping:

Table 1

Percent Frequency of Sunday Shopping Among Sampled Committed Mormons
Frequency %
Nearly every Sunday 4
Two times per month 16
One time per month 16
Six to ten times per year 21
Less than six times per year 43

So there people were being naughty but not that often.

Meanwhile they said the justifications for these Sunday Shoppers was also of interest, keep in mind these are active Latter-day Saints according to the study.

Table 2

Respondent Response to Sunday Shopping Situations


% Respondents Defining
Situation as Necessary

1. Someone is sick and needs medicine. 98
2. Stake conference is some distance from home and one tank of gas won’t get you there and back, so you stop at a gas station on the way back. 82
3. You get to church and discover that there is no bread for the sacrament, so you go to the store to buy some. 46
4. The car is out of gas and you want to use it, so you go to the gas station. 42
5. Your parents want to take you out to dinner on Sunday. 38
6. Friends come from out of town. There is not much in the house to eat, so you ask them out to dinner. 31
7. It is your anniversary and so you go out for Sunday dinner with your wife (husband, boyfriend, girlfriend). 28
8. Friends are coming on Sunday evening and you forgot to buy refreshments, so you pick up a few things at the store to serve them. 25
9. Your son has given a talk in church and so you treat the whole family to ice cream at the malt shop as a way to encourage more behavior of that kind. 15
10. It is almost time to go to church and you need a new pair of hose as your last pair just ran, so you go to the store and get a pair. 11
11. You (or a loved one) need a new pair of shoes, and you haven’t much money. A local chain store is having a sale on Sunday only, so you buy a pair. 8
12. Someone you really like asks you to go to a show with him (her) after church, and you go. 8

So after all that examination what do you think their conclusion might have been?

“If we are to do this and be true to our covenants, we must deal with the phenomenon that the above study encountered—rationalization. We must very carefully differentiate between deceitful rationalization and honest justification of our actions. We must continually reexamine the commandments and our judgments concerning how to behave relative to these commandments.”

At the time of this study one was a student PhD in Sociology while the other was a professor at BYU in Sociology yet both were either a Bishop or his Councilor at BYU.

So assuming (and honestly that is all I am doing) they chose their own wards this appears to be a slightly skewed study due to the nature of their own wards as Student wards and thus making things appear much more naughty than they might be in an “family” non student ward. Of course this is a measurement in Utah and not the church as a whole which even in 1972 was much bigger than this.

“We surveyed two ward memberships as well as a cluster sample of a predominantly Mormon community in an attempt to establish, among other things, (1) Church commitment, (2) understanding of the Church position on Sunday shopping, (3) personal feeling about Sunday shopping, (4) incidence of Sunday shopping among respondents, and (5) reasons for Sunday shopping.”

One other question they could have added, how many think it is ok to go shopping or eating out on a Sunday when traveling?

So what do you think about this survey.  Do you think it basically stands today that most would use similar arguments and academically how much value does this study have?


6 Responses to Will the Real Ox in the Mire Please Stand Up

  1. Jon W says:

    A little late Friday Firestorm? Sorry BCC, I could not resist.

  2. Floyd the Wonderdog says:

    Our ward used to have a pot luck every Fast Sunday. A regular, in-the-mission-field ward, not a student ward at BYU.

    A bishop’s counsellor went out and bought KFC that day to bring. They had forgotten that it was Fast Sunday and didn’t want to show up empty handed. They could have just gone home and skipped the potluck. But rather than do thet they broke the Sabbath.

  3. Jon W says:

    My parents when I was a little kid, they were fairly newly baptised, in the old meeting schedule they used to go to McDonalds between meetings because of the distance we had to travel.

    That was about the most obvious example I could give.

  4. cmnacnud says:

    Wow, I find those statistics painfully disturbing. Growing up we lived sometimes a 45 min drive from our branch, but never needed to fill up. We did that Saturday night. Also due to distance we learned to pack a lunch and had a picnic as a family in a local park, we didn’t need to shop because we, had oil in our lamps. Even in the early days of my marriage when I had to work an occasional Sunday shift at the grocery store I worked at I still did not make purchases. I can understand a purchase when someone is sick and needs medicine or something. There are truly situations that may require less than ideal sabbath observance, but seriously, almost half the people said it was ok to buy bread for sacrament. Surely there is someone in the ward who has bread in their house. All it takes is humbling yourself enough to ask. Even if it takes more time to go to their house to get it. I’m saddened.

  5. Jon W says:

    Keep in mind this was also 1972 so the statistics may be better or worse, I would suggest worse. Crazy.

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